How a small Japanese startup is helping Thailand’s biggest telco win new 3G subscribers


quan_logoThailand’s largest mobile operator, AIS, recently launched a new 3G service offering peak download speeds of up to 42Mbps in the country’s urban areas. To promote the service, the telco has been looking for new content to grab consumers’ attention.

Quan, the Tokyo-based startup behind the Lounge messaging app, recently partnered with AIS, launching a new sticker app to help bring in new 3G service subscribers. I was curious to know if maybe this sticker app was a deviation from its regular business. A new direction perhaps? Is there any specific strategy behind it? In order to find out more to, we spoke with the startup’s CEO Kazuhiro Mizuno.

When we last talked back in January of 2012, you were not focusing on Thailand nor were you doing any of this sticker app stuff. What happened since then?


We first started marketing the app all around the Asia region, and we found it was especially popular with users in Thailand. The sticker function used to be part of the Lounge app, but we spun it off and launched it as an independent app. It’s called myStickerShop, and it has seen 500,000 downloads since first launching on Google Play.

I fly a lot to Thailand now, about once a month. And we’ve been discussing and exploring collaborative work [with AIS]. They knew myStickerShop has been a great success, and were interested in releasing it under the AIS brand as to attract potential subscribers to their new 3G service. So we decided to work on it with them using a revenue-share model [1].

There are many mobile carriers and MVNOs in Thailand. Why did you choose AIS? And why Thailand?

ais_mystickershopAIS is not only on top of the country’s mobile industry […] but it is also a Thai subsidiary of Singtel group. That group has many companies and subsidiaries all over Asia, which means it may help us market and expand our business in the future.

By providing our app to AIS on a white-label basis, they handle it as their own app and market it to users using their promotion channels – so we don’t need to [do so much afterwards].

As for why we’ve chosen Thailand, the country is less competitive and it’s easier to make business profitable than in places like Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

Furthermore, content goes viral among Thai consumers very rapidly. In terms of consumer mentality, it’s very similar to Japan, meaning when you see your friend with some attractive or interesting items, you also want to have them. This consumer mindset can yield better viral marketing results, and that’s especially good for app developers like us.

Are you interested in expanding to other Asian countries?

Not right now. From my perspective, if you have a Japanese-style fashion app and want to market it somewhere in Asia, you can easily jump into the Taiwanese market. For Japan-made ‘Kawaii’ (cute) apps, maybe the Thai market is best right now. The market seems receptive to common Japanese trends, and local people are very friendly even for Japanese startups.

Many sticker and messaging apps are competing in this space in Asia. How do you differentiate from competitors?

Other cute Japanese apps such as Snapeee or Decopic are trending in places like Taiwan or Hong Kong. What they have been doing is bringing Japanese style to local markets, where they have not made any localization efforts in terms of exporting the apps outside Japan.

I believe what’s most important is a combination of Japan-made designs and local designs. In our case with the AIS MyStickerShop, we actually provide them with our original stickers by our Japanese designers, but they also add some local Thai designs. That might work to create favorable good results.

Most popular sticker and message apps are Japan-made. Are any developers from other Asian countries on top of this space?

This is because of highly sophisticated designing in Japan’s mature design market. Our country is well known for creating manga or anime, creating a market where cartoonists or illustrators can make a living. Perhaps many people designing our stickers are also very well trained.

In addition to the Lounge messaging app and myStickerShop, are you working on any other projects now?

unblock.me_screenshotWe’ve been bringing our app to the Thai market, and we also started helping Thai startups market their apps in the Japanese market in return. We recently partnered with Kiragames, a gaming startup in Thailand’s second largest city, Chiang Mai. We developed the Japanese version of their smash hit puzzle game We’re also helping them market it in Japan, by getting itlisted on KDDI’s Smartpass or NTT Docomo’s Sugotoku — both are monthly subscription-based app purchasing programs. This is a good way to give Japanese consumers easier access to apps from foreign developers.

I was pretty impressed that Mr. Mizuno has been so active helping other Japanese or Thai startups work collaboratively in such a way. Quan received an undisclosed amount of investment from and East Ventures in August of 2012.

  1. Note that the customized AIS version of myStickerShop is only available using AIS handsets on the telco’s high-speed 3G service in Thailand.  ↩